Women Creating Change

Women Creating Change utilizes the expertise of Columbia’s many distinguished feminist scholars to focus on how contemporary global problems affect women and the role women play in addressing those problems.  In the era of globalization, power and resources are unequally distributed, with certain populations marginalized and dispossessed. Women face particular forms of vulnerability: limited control over reproduction; inequitable access to health care, education, and political participation; sexual exploitation, including rape as a recognized tactic of war; gender-based forms of labor exploitation, including forced domestic service; and the double burden of domestic and paid labor. And yet, women and other marginalized groups have also devised innovative forms of activism and resistance in the face of these socially imposed vulnerabilities.   Women Creating Change develops strategies for political, social and cultural change by creating global networks of engaged scholars and activists who use local knowledge and advanced research methods in the service of social justice.

Leading this initiative are faculty from Columbia and Barnard who are internationally recognized for their work on such topics as the impact of globalization on the everyday lives of urban women; the global politics of reproductive rights and maternal health; the sources and impact of women’s religious activism; and the impact of migration on women’s networks and social power. They have formed working groups of scholars and activists from the New York tri-state area and the regions where Columbia’s global centers are located. Collectively, they are developing frameworks for thinking about social vulnerabilities and for imagining creative and sustainable forms of redress.  Such work is necessarily interdisciplinary as well as comparative and transnational and benefits from the rich resources and global perspective afforded by CSSD and Columbia University’s Global Centers.

September 12, 2012
How are gender relations impacted by material impoverishment and social segregation? Why do women suffer disproportionately from the social hazards of urban informality? This project addresses the global slum as the product of a complex interplay between the political economy of urban space, and the spatialization of social difference, especially gender/sexuality. Our project is especially interested in querying new aspirations around gender and consumption, the gender of poverty, new formations of informal labor and sex work, and emergent sites of violent conflict as these are remaking gendered relations of power.
Over the past two decades, women’s activism has taken creative new forms across the Muslim world. Working within the frame of Islamic piety and engaging fully with the Muslim tradition, women have been deliberately distancing themselves from the largely secular feminist projects of social reform, legal rights, or empowerment-through-development that had dominated the social field of women’s activism in most post-independence nations across the Muslim world. Yet these efforts by women to work within an explicitly religious framework in order to transform society, refashion their roles as women, redefine their authority, and participate more fully in public debates and political fields have taken radically different paths, and influenced state policy in a number of ways. This workshop will bring together experts on gender, Islam, and various Muslim communities to explore the divergences and points of contact between the flourishing work of those who could be termed “Islamic feminists” and the locally but widely appealing work of those who might best be called “Islamist women.”
This project seeks to bring together a wide range of feminist scholars who work on the problem of women, vulnerability, and social change with an eye to understanding both the risks of establishing women as a vulnerable population, and the promise of developing new modes of collective agency and practices of resistance that do not deny vulnerability as a resource. In other words, we hope to understand global practices of social change that emerge from conditions of social and economic vulnerability. Our topics will include a gendered analysis of war, literacy and education, economic precarity and inequality, and we hope both to identify sites of social vulnerability and modes of social resistance and change. We hope as well to bring together artists, critics, and philosophers who offer theoretical perspectives on the sources of social change, focusing on modes of alliance that are characterized by interdependency and public action.
September 12, 2012
“Women Mobilizing Memory” focuses on the political stakes and consequences of witnessing and testimony as responses to historical trauma. It probes how individual and collective testimony and performance can establish new forms of cultural memory and facilitate social repair. Using gender as an analytic lens, this project explicitly explores women's acts of witness and the gendered forms and consequences of political repression and persecution.